Jewish Shanghai: The Moller Villa Story

If you plan to visit Shanghai, there is a building that you should not miss. Its official name is Moller Villa, named after Eric Moller, a Jewish resident of Shanghai in the early 20th century. When I had a seventeen-hour layover last week, I decided to stay there overnight—it has since been converted into a hotel. Located on South Shanxi Road in the former French foreign concession area, Moller Villa is a sight for sore eyes. It may seem out-of-place to the virgin traveler. In the midst of modern apartment buildings, shopping centers, and a lot of traffic noise—this villa is a tranquil place of relaxation.

According to local legend, Eric Moller built this Villa for his beloved daughter in 1936 after she had conveyed her dream of having a fairytale castle. Moller was a Swedish-British merchant who first came to Shanghai in 1919. After much success in the shipping business, he became well-known in Shanghai elite circles and a member of the notorious Shanghai Race Club. He invited many different architects to design the Villa to become his own private residence. The end product is a hybrid-fusion style that includes Western and Eastern architectural elements.

The building today still stands in its original condition, protected by the local Shanghai government. At the entryway to the villa, there is a plaque that explains its current status in Shanghai. The plaque states in English and Chinese that it is an “Important Monument under the State Protection.” Not bad for an almost-decade old foreign structure. The villa itself is a mix of browns and reds intermixed with a layered-brick feel. The pointed rooftops give the boxy rectangular structure a much-needed softness by drawing the eyes from the ground to the Shanghai skies. Two traditional Chinese lions flank the front steps providing an interesting mix of East and West styles.

A small garden covers the area to the mansion’s immediate side and back area—easily accessible from the front door and back porch of the restaurant area. A small creek flows through the miniature garden flanked by tall hundred-year-old trees. The wooden foot-bridge takes you from one side of the garden to the other—transporting you through the world the Moller family built.

Once you step inside the main hotel area, if feels as if you are living in Europe. The tall stained-glass windows are covered in nature designs of greens, pinks, and shades of gray and black. Elaborate crystal chandeliers reflect the outside sunlight throughout the check-in area. Lush upholstered couches lay opposite of the wooden check-in area—welcoming guests to a villa fitting for a gentleman and lady. Photographs of the Moller family, his horseracing, and the villa’s stories in Shanghai history line the walls.

Next time you are in Shanghai for a 24-hour layover or longer ;-), try exploring Moller Villa and add it to your itinerary. It is a gem of a sight for the modern age.

Moller Villa — A Small Piece of Jewish Shanghai

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A quick greeting from Shanghai, China! I’m checking out the Moller Villa part of Jewish Shanghai.

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Project allofasuddenpartJew: 2013 Recap

As the year 2013 comes to a close, I would like to reflect on the milestones this year for allofasuddenpartJew. From Limmud conferences in Hong Kong and Shanghai, traveling to Japan to visit the Chabad house, and walking around Jewish Lower East Side–I feel I have furthered my understanding of the Jewish people and beliefs.

  • Limmud - A Hebrew word that means learning, I attended my first Limmud conference in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Made a few valuable connections from the Jewish philanthropy and non-profit space.
  • Jewish Japan – Traveled to Japan (My new favorite Asian country) and spent Sukkot at the Chabad House of Tokyo. Many Japanese people are interested in Jewish people. Some Japanese believe they are descendents  of the lost tribes.
  • Melton Mini-School – After an initial Intro to Judaism course at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong, I felt I needed to go deeper. I enrolled in the Melton Adult Mini-School course at Ohel Leah Synagogue and have enjoyed the teachings from Rabbi Oser.
  • Chinese Studies - Continued my studies in relevant topics. I started to pursue an MA in Chinese Studies at CUHK to deepen my knowledge of China.
  • Jewish New York City - Visited NYC to visit Jewish enclaves like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side.

I have to be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with my social media as much as I would like. My social media stats for as of December 2013 are:

  • Blog – allofasuddenpartJew (83 posts)
  • Facebook – page under the same title (480 Fans)
  • Twitter – account under the same title (285 Followers)

Looking forward to 2014–the year of the horse in Chinese astrology. The horse is a highly respected animal in Chinese culture–one that symbolizes strength, agility, and endurance. Even the German carmaker BMW’s brand name in China is 宝马(Baoma), which literally means treasure horse, contains the character for horse.

Happy New Year 2014!

Chinese Year of the Horse

Chinese Year of the Horse

Jewish Lower East Side

Eldrige Street SynagogueSynagogue and MuseumAnother AngleClose upIntroduction of buildingAngel Orensanz Foundation
Inside OrensanzBluish LightsYours Truly InsideFrom the second floorInside the SukkaChabad of Tokyo Sukka Mobile
Front ViewInside the Chabad HouseView from outside inBooks at the Chabad HouseHarp Emblem of King DavidMe at City of David sign
Live Archeology at City of DavidTower of David at NightChandelier Fixture inside Tower of DavidOld City ArchwayOld City architecture close-upView of City of David at hills of Jerusalem

allofasuddenpartJew1’s photostream on Flickr.

Starting at Katz Deli, I walked around the Jewish areas of the Lower East Side in New York City. So much history and so much to see, so little time.

Merry Christmas to Christian friends worldwide

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On this Christmas Day, December 25, 2013, I would like to reflect on the power of one man’s birthday. Jesus was a great Jew who brought together many people to the one true G-d.

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Brooklyn Hasidics, Jewish Lower East Side, and Rambam’s 13 Principles

Only a few days until Christmas! First and foremost, I would like to wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas 2013. In addition, I like to wish secular friends from around the world a happy gift-giving holiday. Christmas these days has become such a capitalist tradition, even in China where Christians are the minority.

Now back to NYC….

I made the short journey out to Williamsburg Brooklyn to survey the Hasidic community of NYC. Women wore head wraps and dressed in all black. Men wore black suits and had long curly sideburns. I walked around Lee and Division Street enclave areas and saw lots of kosher markets and restaurants. It was like a step back in time where clocks stopped turning. I would pass homes and the young children would turn to look at me, as if they are wondering what’s she doing here….

After a visit to Brooklyn, I took a Jewish walk around Lower East Side of Manhattan. I stopped at the Tenement Museum and took a food tour–boy was that a great decision. Likely, the best tour I have ever been on. I got to taste pickles, cheese, bialys, and green-tea puff pastry. The guides at the Tenement were awesome and friendly–they made everyone feel at home and super welcome. A bit later, a few friends joined me to walk around a few key Jewish institutions around LES. We met at the Katz’s Delicatessen, a place so famous there were lines wrapped around the next block. We stopped at the Eldridge Street Synagogue right before Shabbat and walked over to the Angel Orensenz Foundation after. Two exquisitely beautiful synagogues in Lower East Side’s Jewish history. My friends and I stopped to refresh at a local diner. I made my way to Jewish Queens later that night–and to the La Guardia airport the next morning.

Last but not least, Maimonides or Rambam passed away today in 1204. He is a famous Jewish philosopher and scholar who changed the course of Judaism forever. It was he who created the Mishneh Torah, the widest and broadest Jewish Law available. It was also he who created the 13 principles of faith of Judaism. If you call yourself a Jew, per Rambam, you should believe in the following: (Source: Wikipedia)

  1. The Existence of G-d
  2. G-d’s unity and indivisibility into elements
  3. G-d’s spirituality and incorporeality (sorry Christians!)
  4. G-d’s eternity
  5. G-d alone should be the object of worship
  6. Revelation through G-d’s prophets
  7. The preeminence of Moses among the prophets
  8. The Torah that we have today is the one dictated to Moses by G-d
  9. The Torah given by Moses will not be replaced and that nothing may be added or removed from it
  10. G-d’s awareness of human actions
  11. Reward of good and punishment of evil
  12. The coming of the Jewish Messiah
  13. The resurrection of the dead

I left New York City yesterday and am now in the southern USA spending the holidays with family.

Until next time, let’s memorize these 13 principles! :-)

A Jewish New York to Remember

New York City, otherwise known as the “Big Apple”, is an amazing city. I’m enjoying myself a lot here staying in the TriBeCa area.

My first encounter with it was the last semester of University of Texas at Austin. I was evaluating two first job offers, one based in Dallas and the other in New York City. New York City to me at the time was an intimidating monster–full of rude, aggressive, and competitive people looking out for their own best interests to make and keep money. It wasn’t a city that I saw myself in, living or traveling to. I was simply too ignorant of what the massive metropolis had to offer on the brighter side.

Fast forward to 2013, walking around New York City seems like second nature to me. I am staying here for five days to explore some Jewish history, meet some new people, and try a Shul or two.

Wednesday night I met Elke Reva Sudin, a Jewish contemporary artist from Brooklyn. We had a fantastic vegetarian dinner at Cafe Blossom in Upper West Side talking various things Jewish and Chinese. She is the founder of Jewish Art Now, a “central portal for the convergence of Judaism and contemporary art with a fresh and innovative perspective”. Check out her art.

Thursday I met with Jeff Orlick, founder of Wox and Lox. Wox and Lox is the first and only Jewish and Chinese Christmas dinner in New York City. This year’s dinner is on December 28. If you are in the New York City area at that time, give it a try.

Tomorrow and Saturday I will be touring the historical Jewish Lower East Side. I will make a stop at the Tenement Museum to tour the food of Jewish LES. Friday night will be at the OZ Synagogue for Shabbat and Saturday I am contemplating a trip to Williamsburg to visit the Hasidic community.

Will post pics soon,

Xiaoming

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